WASHINGTON – The Supreme Court ruled Monday that Louisiana’s tight abortion restriction violates the Constitution, a surprising victory for abortion rights advocates from an increasingly conservative court.
Decision 5-4 in which Chief Justice John Roberts joined liberal court judges reversed a law passed by the Louisiana legislature in 2014 requiring any physician offering abortion services to have admission privileges. a hospital within 30 miles. His application had been blocked by a protracted legal battle.
Two Louisiana doctors and a medical clinic filed a lawsuit to overturn the law. They said that they would leave just one doctor in a single clinic to provide services to nearly 10,000 abortion-seeking women in the state each year.
The challengers said the requirement was identical to a Texas law that the Supreme Court repealed in 2016. With the vote of then-Judge Anthony Kennedy, the court ruled that Texas imposed a barrier to women seeking access to abortion services without providing no medical benefit.
Kennedy was succeeded by the more conservative Brett Kavanaugh, appointed by President Donald Trump.
The Center for Reproductive Rights said the burdens on access to abortion in Louisiana would have been even more restrictive than those in Texas, where about half of the state’s abortion clinics were forced to close. He also said the law was unnecessary, because only a small fraction of women experience medical problems after an abortion, and when they do, they seek treatment at a hospital near where they live, not one near the medical clinic.
Louisiana defended the law, arguing that the requirement to partner with a nearby hospital would provide a check of a doctor’s credentials. But opponents said a hospital’s decision about whether to grant admission privileges had little to do with a doctor’s competence and more to do with whether the doctor would admit a sufficient number of patients.
A federal judge ruled in 2017 that the law was likely unconstitutional and blocked its application. But a panel of three judges from the 5th Court of Appeals. US Circuit voted to lift suspension, finding it would pose far less of a hurdle than Texas law, because fewer than a third of Louisiana women seeking an abortion face even the potential for longer wait times .
The Supreme Court suspended that decision while considering the case, which prevented the law from taking effect.